Report finds alcohol bill will have "serious consequences" for Irish media

Economist Jim Power says alcohol advertising restrictions will "inevitably lead to further job losses"

Advertising restrictions included in the Government's new public health legislation on alcohol will have serious consequences for the Irish media industry, according to a new report.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 seeks to introduce widespread restrictions on the advertising of alcohol in Ireland.

The bill, in its current form, would make it an offence for more than 20% of advertising space in a publication to go towards alcohol products.

The restrictions have come in for criticism from the sports and event promotion industries - who have warned that alcohol advertising is "vital" for many independent festivals.

The report, undertaken by economist Jim Power, found that the proposed advertising restrictions will leave broadcast media facing a revenue shortfall of €7m per year, print media likely to lose out on €2m a year and the outdoor media industry facing losses of €11m a year.

It also found widespread disagreement in international literature on the effectiveness of restricting or banning alcohol advertising as a means of combating harmful drinking - with a lack of evidence available to justify the restrictions.

Advertising revenue

The broadcasting sector has already faced eight years of depressed advertising revenues - compounded by the decline in the value of sterling as a result of the Brexit vote.

Print media meanwhile has seen a drop of more that 50% in advertising revenue since 2007.

The report warns that the legislation will see Irish media organisations facing a collapse in revenue that will inevitably lead to further job losses.

The report was commissioned by a number of Irish media organisations.

Job losses

Commenting following the publication of the report, Mr Power warned that the Irish media is "already under significant financial pressure from declining advertising revenues and the advent of digital media."

"These pressures will be exacerbated by the new legislation – which will cost jobs and undermine the ability of the affected Irish media organisations to deliver high quality media content,” he said.

He said the new proposals will double the amount of regulation - with a "strict regulatory regime" already in place.

He said the plans will effectively turn off the advertising revenue tap for professional Irish media, leading to "an inevitable reduction in consumer choice and job losses in the area.”

Little impact

He said alcohol advertising restrictions introduced in France in 1991 have "had little impact" with data from the most recent ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) report finding that drinking among young people continues to be a serious problem in the country.

"Latest data on alcohol consumption from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows clearly that alcohol consumption in Ireland is on a declining trend," he said. "This has occurred in the absence of the draconian measures contained the Bill."

Alcohol Action Ireland, a national charity for alcohol-related issues, has called the report "unnecessarily alarmist" - insisting the measure contained in the bill can provide a reasonable, pragmatic means or reducing alcohol related harm in Ireland.

It said the bill's impact on total advertising revenues will be nominal.